Dog Owner Liability

Did you know that dog bites account for one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims? And that half of all dog bites occur on the dog owner’s property?

When your dog bites a visitor to your home, many people’s first question is to ask whether it is covered under a home insurance policy. The answer is – it depends. Some homeowners’ policies include animal liability as standard, and others will allow you to add it by endorsement (usually for an extra premium of around $25 a year).

Another important factor is the breed of dog. If you have an animal that is deemed to be dangerous – from a fairly standard list including Pit Bull, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, and others – then you will usually find that your home insurance policy specifically excludes liability. Some carriers will decline to insure your home – period! – if a dangerous dog is present. Finally, even if your dog is a so-called “safe” breed, you may not be covered if it has a history of biting people.

That is why it is essential to disclose all information about animals in your home, when signing up for a new policy. And also, let your insurance agent know if you obtain a new pet, so they can assist you in understanding what coverage you need.

Road Rage and Auto Insurance

Want to know why “road rage” is not covered by many auto insurance policies? The simple answer is that property damage or liability claims resulting from aggressive driving are not considered to be accidental, but rather, an avoidable consequence of risky behavior.

Even if you’re feeling calm, you don’t want to become part of someone else’s auto accident as a result of their bad driving choices. The following tips may save your bacon on Houston’s high-octane highways:

  1. Stay far away: Slow down or change lanes to leave as much space between you and the offending driver as possible. If you are being tailgated, move aside to reduce the chance of being run into from behind if you are forced to brake sharply.
  2. Note the vehicle details: Pull over and report the aggressive driver to the police. Remember – do not make a call on your cell phone while driving!
  3. Don’t use hand gestures: A middle-finger salute could quickly escalate the situation out of hand if the other driver is already feeling angry, aggressive, or upset.
  4. Don’t confront another driver: In a moment of madness, it may be tempting to follow the person who just cut you off, force them off the road, and teach them a lesson using a tire iron or firearm. Don’t do this.
  5. Practice empathy: Maybe the aggressive driver is running late for work, or just had an argument with his wife. Perhaps the slow driver is lost, or has a mechanical issue with his vehicle. At some point, everyone has been one of those drivers – try not to take the bad driving of others personally.

Stay safe on those crazy roads and if you need auto insurance advice, call your friends at Memorial Insurance Agency in Houston, Texas!

Renters Insurance Myths

Renters insurance may cover more than you think! It is also one of the best value insurance policies out there …. just $150-$200 a year can buy you a LOT of liability coverage, and protection for your personal belongings as well.

Memorial Insurance Agency in Houston will be happy to provide you with a quote – call one of our agents today to discuss your requirements.

5 Reasons to get Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage is an essential part of your auto insurance policy. Yes, it is optional and you can “reject” it in writing, but you’d be crazy to do this considering that an estimated one in five drivers in Texas may be driving around with no insurance at all, and millions more drivers have only the bare minimum of coverage.

How do UM and UIM coverages protect you? They step in to cover bodily injury and property damage if you get involved in an accident with a driver who either has no insurance, or whose insurance limits are less than the cost of the accident. Hit-and-run accidents – where the other driver flees the scene – would also be included in the UM/UIM part of your auto insurance policy.

So, why get UM/UIM? Here are 5 very good reasons:

  1. The number of uninsured motorists is increasing As insurance costs spiral ever higher, so too does the number of people willing to “chance it” and drive without insurance. This is especially true in large cities like Houston which have among the highest auto insurance premiums in the nation.
  2. The number of uninsured motorists may continue to rise Research has shown that the number of uninsured drivers is directly related to the strength of the economy. If we enter another recession, the numbers of people without insurance will increase, so you should be prepared for this well ahead of time.
  3. Minimum liability limits are too low Even if you already have UM/UIM coverage, if you have only the minimum 30/60/25 limits ($30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage) you will likely have too little coverage under your policy to pay for a serious accident. Guess what happens if you run out of coverage? Yup, you are going to be paying the rest out of your own pocket, and those medical bills do not come cheap.
  4. Increasing your UM/UIM limits is not expensive It usually costs just a handful of dollars a month to upgrade from 30/60/25 to 100/300/100 or more – giving you a lot more coverage (and peace of mind) for very little additional cost.
  5. The chance of collecting money from an uninsured motorist is low Someone who is driving without insurance most likely has few assets, so pursuing a claim against them will likely to be an expensive waste of time, especially considering the legal fees involved.

The moral of the story? Speak to your agent at Memorial Insurance today to make sure the UM/UIM limits on your policy have you covered if the worst should happen!

Top 5 Christmas Safety Tips

The most wonderful time of the year is also one of the most dangerous! Keep an extra close eye on the following sources of holiday woe…..

  1. FIRE, FIRE EVERYWHERE! Even Texas can get cold in winter, so make sure your seldom-used woodstove or furnace is well-maintained. Keep flammable objects such as clothing, Christmas decorations, cats and children well away! Candles and drapes do not go well together so be sure to NEVER leave naked flames unattended.
  2. ELECTRICAL DISASTERS Christmas is the season for wannabe electricians to practice their skills with the Christmas lights. Avoid the chance of electrical fires by checking for frayed wires or corroded sockets, and do not overload your outlets or extension cords. Save money on your electricity bill and further reduce the chance of a fire by switching off your Christmas lights at night.
  3. KITCHEN CATASTROPHES More people in the house means more traffic in the kitchen, and a higher chance that your big bubbling pot of boiling liquid could end up getting knocked off the stove top and give someone a Christmas they will never forget. Keep children, guests and pets out of the kitchen while the cooking is happening!
  4. WRECKS Multi-tasking much at Christmas? The roads are busy, the weather can be bad, and people are racing around to beat Christmas deadlines. Allow extra time and don’t be tempted to text and drive!
  5. BOOZE Did you know you could be held liable in court if you allow an intoxicated person to drive home from your Christmas party? The solution: offer a rideshare service such as Uber, or make up the spare bedroom – it is much better for your inebriated guest to crash there and NOT on the highway!

Does Auto Insurance Cover Rental Cars?

The short answer is, of course, “it depends”. What are YOU covered for? Read our handy guide below:

1. Where are you renting? If you have full coverage (including comprehensive and collision) on your auto policy in Texas, and you are with a high-quality, reputable company like Safeco, Travelers, or Progressive, then insurance coverage will likely extend to your rental car anywhere in the United States. However, it’s a different story overseas. Countries such as Mexico have their own laws and requirements, so if you’re heading abroad you’ll almost certainly need to purchase additional insurance.

2. What kind of car are you renting? Own a small SUV in Houston, rent a small SUV in Utah … usually no problem with your rental being automatically covered under your auto policy. Normally drive a 2003 Toyota Corolla, but rent a Ferrari 488GTB to drag race down the strip in Vegas on your bachelor party weekend? You could have problems. Moral of the story: if in doubt, get the insurance offered by the rental company.

3. Have a good credit card? Sometimes – but not always – this can fill in any “gaps” in coverage that your personal auto policy cannot provide, including CDW (see below).

4. Live in a house? Your personal belongings are likely covered under your homeowners, renters, or condo policy – even while they are lying on the back seat of a rental car. Of course, everyone knows that leaving valuable items unattended in a vehicle is a bad idea, but you get the picture.

5. Don’t forget the CDW Collision Damage Waiver (also known as Loss Damage Waiver) is not an insurance product, but a waiver that means the rental car company – not you – is held responsible in the case of damage of theft. Among other things, the CDW will cover loss of use and diminished value to the rental car, which can add up to thousands in the event of a major accident and won’t be covered under your auto insurance.

6. Relax! Finally, when purchasing insurance with a rental car company, it is almost always both easier and cheaper to purchase it in advance … NOT at the rental car desk when you arrive tired and frazzled after a long flight!

Happy and safe travels from Memorial Insurance!

6 Things You Forgot to Insure!

Insuring your cat may help to keep those vet bills down, but what about the other things that people often overlook? Don’t forget to protect yourself against the following:

  1. Half of your car accident: Liability insurance will pay for damage to other people, their vehicles and property. But what about your own car? Omit comprehensive and collision coverage from your policy, and you’ll be paying the full cost of repairs by yourself.
  2. The bad decisions of others: 1 in 4 drivers is either driving around with no insurance at all, or has woefully inadequate limits. If one of these guys crashes into you, guess who could end up paying for the accident? That’s right: YOU. If injuries are involved, the bills could be astronomical. To avoid this nightmare scenario, be sure to add UM/UIM coverage to your auto policy.
  3. Your valuables: High-value items such as jewelry, art, or antiques need to be scheduled on your home insurance …. or can be put on their own policy. If you make a big purchase, don’t forget to protect it! Also, take a look at your policy every year to make sure you have enough coverage for any additions or upgrades to your home. As your home grows, so should your insurance.
  4. Flooding: No one in Houston should be without flood coverage, which is NOT included in your home insurance. If you aren’t in a designated flood zone, flood insurance offers high coverages and unlimited peace of mind for $450 a year or less.
  5. Extra liability: If you’re doing well in life, the sad fact is that you are at risk from people coming after everything you’ve got, especially if you’re at fault for a serious accident. Umbrella insurance is inexpensive and will give you up to $5 million in extra protection.
  6. Replacement cost: be sure your policy includes these two magic words, for both your home and your personal property. Some agents are sneaky and will give you Actual Cash Value coverage in order to reduce premium, and this means your insurance will pay you only a depreciated value for your home, roof, or contents. What is the actual cash value of a 10 year old roof? A lot less than it costs to replace it, for sure. And when you factor in the deductible as well, an ACV policy may give you almost no payout at all after that Category 4 hurricane hits Houston.

Any questions? Give your friendly agent at Memorial Insurance a call and we’ll be happy to help!

Umbrella vs. Excess Liability: do YOU know the difference?

Thanks to our friends at Safeco Insurance for their reminder about this crucial distinction!

The golden rule is: an Excess Liability policy provides additional coverage above your auto/home liability limits, BUT it only covers what is included in the underlying policy. In contrast, a true Umbrella is an OPEN PERILS policy – which means that if something is not specifically excluded, you’re covered.

Do you need examples of where an Umbrella could provide coverage, but an Excess Liability policy would not? How about these:

1) While on vacation, you rent a boat. Out on the water, you crash into another boat, severely injuring a water-skier being towed behind. Neither your home nor your auto policy would cover that …. but an umbrella would.

2) You write a blog post about a bad experience in a restaurant. The restaurant owner sues you for libel. Even if the lawsuit is thrown out of court, you still have to respond …. and that can be expensive. An umbrella would cover your costs.

3) You rent a car while overseas, but get involved in an accident which injures another driver. Your auto insurance all the way back home in Texas won’t cover his hospital bills …. but your umbrella will.

For more information about umbrella policies, or to find out whether your current policy is a true umbrella or merely an excess liability policy, give your friendly agent at Memorial Insurance a call!

Source: Safeco Umbrella vs Excess Liability